The weekend is finally here. We're 19 hours away from the first Big Ten games getting started, it's time to ease into full football mode by dipping a toe into a Friday evening mailbag:
Adam from the Army writes: In the BCS Era there was only one team (Auburn 2004) in a Power Five conference that went undefeated and left out of a National Championship Game. So is it safe to say that any undefeated Power Five conference champion will make it into the College Football Playoff? Barring all 5 going undefeated?
Dan Murphy: I can’t imagine a scenario in which an undefeated Power Five team would miss the playoffs. Since the end of WWII, there has never been a time when every major conference had an undefeated champion. It’s possible, but highly unlikely the selection committee runs into that problem. In my opinion, it should be hard to keep any undefeated team (regardless of conference affiliation) out of the national championship contention now that there is room for four teams. Will the Big Ten have an undefeated conference champ this year to fill that role? I highly doubt it.
Alex from York, Neb., writes: I told myself I would never irrationally drink the Kool-Aid, but I've gone and done it... I look at the schedule for Nebraska, and every single game looks very winnable. …How much of a chance are you guys at The Blog giving Nebraska of running the table and representing the Big 10 in the first CFP?
Dan Murphy: Gave this away in the last answer, but not much of a chance. Playing at Michigan State and at Wisconsin are the two big hurdles. The schedule is manageable otherwise, but playing a full season without one off day is difficult for any team. The Huskers have yet to show they're dominant enough to beat a decent Big Ten program on a day when things just aren’t clicking. You can get past McNeese State in those scenarios, but another one of those games would be trouble.
Colton from East Lansing, Mich., asks: Do you think the MSU vs. Nebraska game is the most important B1G game of the season?
Dan Murphy: Only if Nebraska wins. If the Huskers find a way to beat Sparty on the road Alex’s question from above becomes a much better possibility. If Michigan State wins, its Nov. 8 meeting with Ohio State catapults to the top of the conference games this season. If Penn State can keeps its momentum going, the Lions finish their season by hosting Michigan State on the final Saturday of November. No matter what happens it looks like the road to the top of the league goes through Mark Dantonio’s team this year.
@DanMurphyESPN After the inevitable happens i.e. Hoke is fired and Miles and Harbaugh reject the offer, could Narduzzi be an option for UM?
— Abhijeet Singh (@abhijeet33) September 26, 2014
Dan Murphy: I was actually talking about that scenario with a colleague a few days ago. First of all, let me start by saying I don’t agree with the idea that Hoke is already done at Michigan. It’s too early in the season to write anyone off. But ... if Michigan is looking for a new coach next season, signing one of the Harbaugh brothers will be tough. Both figure to be in playoff contention in December, and Michigan can’t afford to wait until the NFL wraps up around national signing day to make a hire. The Wolverines would need to make a big splash with a new hire. Snatching one of the country’s top coordinators from a hated in-state rival is certainly splash-worthy. Don't know if Narduzzi would be interested (he's in line to take over for the 58-year-old Dantonio in East Lansing if he wants to wait), but what a fun layer that would add to those annual meetings if Narduzzi became a Michigan man.
P-Dub from Seattles writes: How about the fact that nearly 10 percent of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL are from Michigan State! Add in Brees, Brady, and Wilson, and nearly 20 percent of starting QB's are from the B1G. Who says we ain't got no quarterback talent!?
Dan Murphy: How about those Big Ten quarterbacks, indeed. A quarter of the NFL (eight teams) has started a former Big Ten player under center in at least one game this season. Speaking in generalities, the conference has held firm in its pro-style approach to offense while college football trends toward a dominant spread look during the past decade. That’s produced a string of quarterbacks like the Michigan State group who are comfortable in NFL offenses. Almost all of them started their careers as backups, but have been able to fill starting roles adequately when opportunities arise.
The current Big Ten features a handful of NFL hopefuls at quarterback -- Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg and Braxton Miller chief among them. The question, for Hackenberg and Cook at least, is if the NFL will evolve away from the traditional quarterback like college football has and leave them out of their element in the future.